Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Department of State’

22nd June 2017

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that President Trump recently promulgated an executive order which amends a prior Obama administration order which dealt directly with processing procedures for non-immigrant visas to the United States of America. This Presidential executive order was enacted on June 21, 2017. The most pertinent section of the order, in this blogger’s opinion, reads as follows:

Section 1.  Amendment to Executive Order 13597.  Executive Order 13597 of January 19, 2012 (Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness), is amended by deleting subsection (b)(ii) of section 2 of that order.

In order to better understand the importance of this amendment, it is important to quote directly from the aforementioned order, specifically the section being deleted:

(b) The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the heads of such agencies as appropriate, shall develop an implementation plan, within 60 days of the date of this order, describing actions to be undertaken, including those that build upon efforts underway, to achieve the following…

(ii) ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application, recognizing that resource and security considerations and the need to ensure provision of consular services to U.S. citizens may dictate specific exceptions;

As the underlined portion noted above points out the specific section which has been deleted seems imply that fast non-immigrant visa processing is no longer a significant priority of the administration. Moreover, the President has specifically ordered Department of State personnel to disregard the previous administration’s clear policy of using best efforts to quickly process visa applications of those seeking non-immigrant visa benefits for the USA.

What type of visa applicants will most likely be affected by this policy change? Applicants for visas such as the B-1 visa (business visa), the B-2 visa (tourist visa), F-1 visa (student visa), J-1 visa (exchange visitor visa), as well as any other visa which is considered a non-immigrant visa (with the probable exception of so-called “dual intent visas“) will be directly impacted by this recent order. Concurrently, what will this mean in practical terms for processing of future visa applications? On the bright side, it takes time for policies to be enacted and thus result in a substantial impact on applicants. Furthermore, as the previous administration enacted policies to speed up non-immigrant visa processing and made practical provisions associated therewith it seems logical to infer that such measures are unlikely to be reversed quickly. Therefore, those seeking non-immigrant visa benefits in the near future are unlikely to be overwhelmingly adversely affected. That stated, those seeking similar benefits in a longer term context could see application processing times lagging compared to present time frames.

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9th February 2017

In the aftermath of the new year, there have been many announcements which have had significant impacts upon those living outside the USA. It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States is poised to begin certifying delinquent taxes and communicating such certification to the United States Department of State. To quote the official IRS website directly:

The IRS has not yet started certifying tax debt to the State Department. Certifications to the State Department will begin in early 2017…If you have seriously delinquent tax debt, IRC § 7345 authorizes the IRS to certify that to the State Department. The [State] department generally will not issue or renew a passport to you after receiving certification from the IRS…Upon receiving certification, the State Department may revoke your passport. If the department decides to revoke it, prior to revocation, the department may limit your passport to return travel to the U.S.

As of January 1, 2016 US Federal statutes were amended to allow US passport revocation for those individuals who were delinquent in taxes under statutorily defined circumstances. Notwithstanding the fact that this law had been promulgated, it appears that until now the IRS had not put a frame work in place for notifying the State Department that an individual had tax delinquency issues. As can be seen from the IRS’s own website, that is no longer the case moving forward. For this reason it is prudent for those who may have tax delinquency issues to retain the services of a competent professional in order to rectify such issues before a situation arises where one is unable to get a passport issued, or a passport is revoked either in the USA or while traveling abroad.

Meanwhile, it appears that authorities in Thailand have adjusted the tax structure for certain taxpayers in Thailand. To quote directly from the Bangkok Post:

A revamped personal income tax structure aimed at increasing disposable incomes for taxpayers has officially come into effect…The amendment to the Tax Code, published in the Royal Gazette on Jan 27, applies to incomes received from Jan 1, 2017 to be filed in 2018…

It appears that under the restructure individuals will be able to make larger deductions for certain expenses while certain filing requirements have been changed requiring a larger number of individuals to file taxes. Those interested in these developments are strongly encouraged to read the article cited above and consult appropriate professionals in order to be apprised of the posture of a given tax situation.

Finally, The United States Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand has recently increased their official exchange rate to 37-1 (baht to dollars). This change reflects the fact that the Baht has been weakening against the US dollar in recent months and may be a signal that said currency may weaken further. The US Embassy in Thailand utilizes a set exchange rate which provides a level of certainty regarding the cost (in baht terms) of service fees for services provided by the US Embassy personnel.

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10th November 2016

In light of recent events in the United States election and the campaign promises made by the now President-elect, it seems appropriate to assume that Immigration matters will likely come to the forefront of American political discussion. For this reason, this blogger finds it relevant to provide an overview of the Immigration apparatus and how the components function.

In order to understand U.S. Immigration matters and the enforcement of U.S. Immigration law one must first understand the Department of Homeland Security. This Department oversees most of the Immigration matters arising in the United States (The Department of State deals with matters pertaining to US visas issued abroad, for more information on the role DOS plays in the immigration process please check out the many pages on this blog dedicated to Consular Processing information).

There are three agencies under the jurisdiction of DHS which deal with different aspects of Immigration law and policy. The first agency that many intending immigrant will no doubt have had dealings with is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service or USCIS. This agency is tasked with adjudicating petitions for immigration benefits such as immigrant visas, work visas, and certain temporary stay visas. Furthermore, the USCIS also adjudicates I-601 waivers of inadmissibility as well as I-212 waivers for those who have previously been subjected to expedited removal. Those wishing to travel from abroad to the United States on some sort of immigrant or work authorized visa will likely have contact with USCIS.

Another component of DHS which deals with Immigration is the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service or USICE. USICE is often the agency tasked with ascertaining the legal status of foreign nationals physically present in the USA and if found to be present in the USA illegally USICE agents are tasked with apprehending such individuals and placing them in deportation proceedings.

Finally, there is the United States Customs and Border Protection Service or USCBP. In the US visa process, USCBP is arguably the most overlooked yet one of the most significant agencies an intending immigrant will deal with. Unbeknownst to most, notwithstanding the issuance of a valid visa, USCBP has the authority to turn away any alien attempting to enter the USA. In actual practice, an alien with a validly issued visa is unlikely to be refused admission at a port of entry, but it can happen. In most cases such refusal is due to a belief on the part of a USCBP officer that an alien attempting to enter the USA on a non-immigrant visa in fact has immigrant intent. This happens frequently to tourist visa holders who are attempting to conduct a so-called visa run in order to remain in the USA. In those cases involving immigrant spouses of US citizens holding visas such as the K-3, the CR-1, or the IR-1 refusal to admit the alien spouse is quite rare. The same can be said for foreign fiancees of US Citizens holding a K-1 visa, but the fact that USCBP has plenary power to turn away any alien seeking admission should not be forgotten.

Meanwhile in an interesting article in The Intercept, it was noted that certain documents have come to light which apparently show that although USCBP has traditionally recognized law enforcement functions (especially with respect to Customs matters) they also work with the FBI in matters not routinely thought of when pondering USCBP’s role. To quote directly from the aforementioned article:

“It is no surprise that law enforcement closely monitors border crossings for criminals or terror suspects. The initiatives described in these documents, however, are explicitly about gathering intelligence, not enforcing the law. A person doesn’t have to be connected to an active investigation or criminal suspect in order to be flagged; the FBI might want them for their potential to provide general intelligence on a given country, region, or group. The goal, according to an FBI presentation on an initiative at Boston’s Logan Airport, is “looking for ‘good guys’ not ‘bad guys.’”

Although immigration matters are often viewed as a “boring” aspect of the United States bureaucracy it should be noted that agents of the Department of Homeland Security play a significant role in maintaining the security of the USA and assist even in the gathering of intelligence.

Although the ultimate policies of the new administration regarding immigration matters remain to be seen it seems logical to infer that should the administration wish to make the immigration process more difficult for foreign nationals, then the sophisticated mechanisms mentioned above would likely have the capacity to make certain that such a course of events actually transpires.

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8th August 2013

Many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) couples have questions regarding United States Immigration in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s finding in the Windsor case that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unConstitutional. Both the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the Department of State have previously issued answers to frequently asked questions on this topic. In a previous posting on this blog, USCIS’s answers to these FAQs were discussed. However, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the USCIS has issued further answers to such FAQs to further clarify their position on this issue. To quote directly from these new answers to FAQs on the official website of the USCIS:

Q1: I am a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national. Can I now sponsor my spouse for a family-based immigrant visa? NEW
A1: Yes, you can file the petition. You may file a Form I-130 (and any applicable accompanying application). Your eligibility to petition for your spouse, and your spouse’s admissibility as an immigrant at the immigration visa application or adjustment of status stage, will be determined according to applicable immigration law and will not be denied as a result of the same-sex nature of your marriage.

Clearly American Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents may petition for an immigrant spouse visa such as an IR1 visa, CR1 visa, or by extension a K3 visa (as the K-3 visa petition is a supplementary petition based upon the initial petition for an immigrant visa). Furthermore, when applying for the visa at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad during the Consular Processing phase of the US immigration process the application will be viewed in the same way as an application based upon a different-sex marriage. Also, adjustment of status applications for the same sex spouse of a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident will be adjudicated in the same manner as a similar application for a different-sex spouse.

A question for many same sex and LGBT couples concerns the State of the couple’s residence versus the State of marriage since there are only a few States which allow such marriages while other states either do not recognize such unions or specifically forbid such unions. USCIS issued further clarification on this issue in their recently updated FAQ section:

Q3: My spouse and I were married in a U.S. state or a foreign country that recognizes same-sex marriage, but we live in a state that does not. Can I file an immigrant visa petition for my spouse? NEW
A3: Yes. As a general matter, the law of the place where the marriage was celebrated determines whether the marriage is legally valid for immigration purposes.  Just as USCIS applies all relevant laws to determine the validity of an opposite-sex marriage, we will apply all relevant laws to determine the validity of a same-sex marriage..

There may be some limited circumstances where the law of the couple’s residence may determine their legal standing on certain issues. However, as can be seen from the above quoted FAQ, the USCIS appears to primarily defer to the law of the State which legalized the marriage when determining whether the couple is eligible for immigration benefits.

Finally, this blogger does not recall the USCIS previously answering questions regarding immigration petitions which were filed with USCIS prior to the Supreme Court’s holding that Section 3 of DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution. The following section of USCIS’s recently expanded FAQ section would appear to respond to this inquiry:

Q5. My Form I-130, or other petition or application, was previously denied solely because of DOMA.  What should I do?
A5.  USCIS will reopen those petitions or applications that were denied solely because of DOMA section 3.  If such a case is known to us or brought to our attention, USCIS will reconsider its prior decision, as well as reopen associated applications to the extent they were also denied as a result of the denial of the Form I-130 (such as concurrently filed Forms I-485).

  • USCIS will make a concerted effort to identify denials of I-130 petitions that occurred on the basis of DOMA section 3 after February 23, 2011.  USCIS will also make a concerted effort to notify you (the petitioner), at your last known address, of the reopening and request updated information in support of your petition.
  • To alert USCIS of an I-130 petition that you believe falls within this category, USCIS recommends that you send an e-mail from an account that can receive replies to USCIS at USCIS-626@uscis.dhs.gov stating that you have a pending petition.  USCIS will reply to that message with follow-up questions as necessary to update your petition for processing.  (DHS has sought to keep track of DOMA denials that occurred after the President determined not to defend Section 3 of DOMA on February 23, 2011, although to ensure that DHS is aware of your denial, please feel free to alert USCIS if you believe your application falls within this category.)
  • For denials of I-130 petitions that occurred prior to February 23, 2011, you must notify USCIS by March 31, 2014, in order for USCIS to act on its own to reopen your I-130 petition.  Please notify USCIS by sending an e-mail to USCIS at USCIS-626@uscis.dhs.gov and noting that you believe that your petition was denied on the basis of DOMA section 3.

Once your I-130 petition is reopened, it will be considered anew—without regard to DOMA section 3—based upon the information previously submitted and any new information provided.   USCIS will also concurrently reopen associated applications as may be necessary to the extent they also were denied as a result of the denial of the I-130 petition (such as concurrently filed Form I-485 applications).

Additionally, if your work authorization was denied or revoked based upon the denial of the Form I-485, the denial or revocation will be concurrently reconsidered, and a new Employment Authorization Document issued, to the extent necessary.  If a decision cannot be rendered immediately on a reopened adjustment of status application, USCIS will either (1) immediately process any pending or denied application for employment authorization or (2) reopen and approve any previously revoked application for employment authorization.  If USCIS has already obtained the applicant’s biometric information at an Application Support Center (ASC), a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be produced and delivered without any further action by the applicant.  In cases where USCIS has not yet obtained the required biometric information, the applicant will be scheduled for an ASC appointment.

  • If another type of petition or application (other than an I-130 petition or associated application) was denied based solely upon DOMA section 3, please notify USCIS by March 31, 2014, by sending an e-mail to USCIS at USCIS-626@uscis.dhs.gov as directed above.  USCIS will promptly consider whether reopening of that petition or application is appropriate under the law and the circumstances presented.

No fee will be required to request USCIS to consider reopening your petition or application pursuant to this procedure.  In the alternative to this procedure, you may file a new petition or application to the extent provided by law and according to the form instructions including payment of applicable fees as directed.

Clearly, USCIS is committed to implementing policies and regulations based upon the US Supreme Court’s recent finding. By reopening previously denied petitions and taking steps to provide same sex couples with the same standing as different-sex couples in future immigration adjudications this agency is making great strides toward equalizing the US family immigration process for families of all kinds.

To review the recently released information on this topic from the Department of State please see: Consular Processing.

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5th August 2013

In a previous posting on this blog, the recently released answers from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to frequently asked questions regarding same sex immigration petitions were analyzed. It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the American State Department has released a similar set of answers to FAQs regarding this topic.  To quote directly from the official website of the U.S. State Separtment:

Q: How does the Supreme Court’s Windsor v. United States decision impact immigration law?

A: The Supreme Court has found section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Effective immediately, U.S. embassies and consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses.   This means that the same sex spouse of a visa applicant coming to the U.S. for any purpose – including work, study, international exchange or as a legal immigrant – will be eligible for a derivative visa.  Likewise, stepchildren acquired through same sex marriages can also qualify as beneficiaries or for derivative status. [italics added]

As previously discussed on this blog, the fact that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been found unConstitutional by the United States Supreme Court means that an American Citizen, or lawful permant resident, can now petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for imigration benefits for a same sex spouse (or fiance, so long as the petitioner is an American Citizen). However, the US State Department, which is responsible for Consular Processing of visa applications, had yet to make specific comments regarding adjudication of visa application based upon a same sex marriage (or fiance) immigration petition. As can be seen from above, the Department of State has brought their procedures into line with the recent Supreme Court decision.

Of interest to many same sex couples is the issue of jurisdiction as same sex marriages are only recognized by a limited number of US States. The following portion of the aforementioned FAQ focuses on this point:

Q: Do we have to live or intend to live in a state in which same sex marriage is legal in order to qualify for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa?

A: No. If your marriage is valid in the jurisdiction (U.S. state or foreign country) where it took place, it is valid for immigration purposes.  For more information, please review the following page on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) website. [italics added]

As there are a limited umber of U.S. jurisdictions which recognize and solemnize same sex marriage as well as a number of States in which such marriages are forbade, there have been questions among legal professionals as well as same sex couples regarding whether the U.S. Immigration officers and Consular Officers at various U.S. posts abroad would fail to approve visa applications and immigration petitions based upon the fact that an LGBT couple may be married in one State and residing in another. In a previous posting on this blog, the USCIS’s answer to this question rested on the “law of the place where the marriage took place“. Basically, USCIS appears willing to approve an otherwise valid immigration petition based upon a same sex marriage if the same sex marriage is performed in a State which allows such unions. Apparently, the Department of State has set a similar policy, thereby allowing an otherwise valid same sex marriage visa application, based upon an USCIS-approved immigration petition, to be approved. However, there are some jurisdictions around the world which may recognize same-sex unions, but do not necessarily categorize them as “marriages”. In those circumstances the Department of State had the following to say:

Q: I am in a civil union or domestic partnership; will this be treated the same as a marriage?

A: At this time, only a relationship legally considered to be a marriage in the jurisdiction where it took place establishes eligibility as a spouse for  immigration purposes. [italics added]

Although the above answer appears to be rather straightforward, there is one question, of possibly more significance, that many unmarried same sex couples may be pondering:

Q: I am a U.S. citizen who is engaged to be married to a foreign national of the same sex.  We cannot marry in my fiancé’s country. What are our options? Can we apply for a fiancé K visa?

A: You may file a Form I-129F and apply for a fiancé(e) (K) visa.  As long as all other immigration requirements are met, a same-sex engagement may allow your fiancé to enter the United States for the purpose of marriage.  For information on adjusting status, please review the following page on USCIS’s website:

Since same sex unmarried couples are now permitted to apply for a K-1 visa, it would now appear possible for the LGBT fiance of an American Citizen to apply for a US fiance visa with the intention of marrying in one of those jurisdictions in the United States which recognize same sex marriages.

Another issue which may arise in the context of same sex marriage is the issue of non-immigrant visas (also known as NIVs). These are visa categories which do not confer immigrant status upon those who use them. The Department of State website posted the following information regarding NIVs for same sex married couples:

Q: Can same sex couples now apply for visas in the same classification?

A: Yes. Starting immediately, same-sex spouses and their children are equally eligible for NIV derivative visas.  Same-sex spouses and their children (stepchildren of the primary applicant when the marriage takes place before the child turns 18) can qualify as derivatives where the law permits issuance of the visa to a spouse or stepchild.  In cases where additional documentation has always been required of a spouse applying with a principal applicant, such documentation will also be required in the case of a same-sex spouse… [italics added]

Finally, a point to note for those LGBT couples who are in a situation in which the foreign spouse has children:  

Q: My foreign national spouse has children. Can they also be included with my spouse’s case?

A: Yes, the children of foreign national spouses can be considered “step-children” of the U.S. citizens and can therefore benefit from a petition filed on their behalf in the IR2 category.    In other categories, stepchildren acquired through same sex marriage can qualify as beneficiaries (F2A) or for derivative status (F3, F4, E1-E4, or DV).  You and your spouse must have married before the child turned 18. [itlaics added]

Clearly, the Department of State allows for step-children of Americans or lawful permanent residents to immigrate where the LGBT couple was married prior to the step-child’s 18th birthday. From the information posted on the State Department’s website regarding non-immigrant visas one could infer that an American Citizen’s prospective step-children (i.e. the children of a foreign fiance) may also be eligible to obtain a K-2 visa based upon the bona fide intention of the American Citizen and his or her foreign fiance to marry in the United States.

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10th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that reports have come out regarding the possibility of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heading the World Bank. To quote directly from the official website of The Telegraph, Telegraph.co.uk:

Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State, has been in discussions with the White House about stepping down from her foreign policy job next year to becoming head of the World Bank, it has been reported. Mrs Clinton, the former First Lady, Senator for New York and rival to Mr Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary race, is said to be eager to become the first female president of the World Bank should the post become vacant next year.”Hillary Clinton wants the job,” a source close to Mrs Clinton told Reuters, which broke the news of the possible move.

The administration of this blog encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks above to learn more.

Issues associated with international banking have been making headlines in recent weeks. Such reports became more acute following the arrest of the former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in the sovereign State of New York on sexual assault charges. Readers are asked to keep in mind that Mr. Strauss-Kahn has not been convicted of any crime as of the time of this writing and therefore, in the eyes of American law, he is innocent until proven guilty.

Readers may note that leadership of the international banking community made news in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after calls were made to consider an Asian candidate for the top IMF posting. Officials in China also have been reported to have made statements regarding the position of IMF head. It remains to be seen just how these issues will ultimately play out and who shall eventually be at the helm of international banking, but for observers of global relations, economics, finance, and politics this is certainly a very interesting time.

In rather unrelated news (but pertinent to this blogger), it was recently reported that the Great State of Kansas has experienced a very uncommon weather phenomenon. For further elucidation it may be best to quote directly from the official website  of KSN News, KSN.com:

WICHITA, Kansas — Last night Wichita experienced a very rare weather phenomenon known as a “Heat Burst.” At 12:22 a.m. the temperature at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport was 85 degrees. At 12:44 the temperature spiked to 102 degrees. This was a 17 degree increase in only 20 minutes. Winds also gusted between 50 and 60 MPH. The heat burst winds and temperatures rapidly dissipated as they spread across Sedgwick and Southern Butler Counties…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read more from this insightful report.

Kansas is often the scene of incredible meteorological phenomenon, but an increase of 17 degrees in a time span of 20 minutes is tremendous by anyone’s estimation. Hopefully, such developments will not have an adverse impact upon the people, agriculture, and ecology of that jurisdiction.

For other relevant information please see: Department of State.

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3rd June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Embassy in Kabul is taking measures to re-institute a policy which would allow for visa interviews to take place on the premises of the Post in Afghanistan. Readers are reminded that such interviews have not been conducted at that location in approximately 20 years. To quote directly from a Department of State announcement as posted upon the official website of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

As of June 1, for the first time in 20 years, immigrant visa applicants will again have scheduled As of June 1, for the first time in 20 years, immigrant visa applicants will again have scheduled interviews in Kabul. U.S. Embassy Islamabad was previously the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate where immigrant visa applicants could be interviewed.

Applicants for petition-based visas, which are mostly temporary work visas, can also now interview in Kabul. For the last two years, applicants for visitor, student and most other temporary visas could apply in Kabul, but not applicants for visas that if approved allow someone to move to the U.S. or to work there. Applicants for non-immigrant petition-based visas like temporary workers (H) can schedule their own appointments using the existing online system on the Embassy’s web site. All of these categories of visas involve a multi-step process that usually starts with a petition that a U.S. relative or employer files with immigration authorities. It is important to note that prior to the interview, the National Visa Center conducts almost all pre-interview processing of petitions that the immigration service approves in the United States. The National Visa Center will also schedule appointments when approved immigrant visa petitions become current.

All of these categories of visas involve a multi-step process that usually starts with a petition that a U.S. relative or employer files with immigration authorities. It is important to note that prior to the interview, the National Visa Center conducts almost all pre-interview processing of petitions that the immigration service approves in the United States. The National Visa Center will also schedule appointments when approved immigrant visa petitions become current…

It should be noted that those seeking immigrant visas to the United States of America must generally first receive an approved immigration petition from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Upon receiving such approval a case file will usually be sent to the National Visa Center which acts as a sort of clearinghouse for visa application files so as to insure that the case file arrives at the US Mission with appropriate jurisdiction. Prospective visa seekers should note that estimated processing times for USCIS adjudication do not take into account Consular Processing at an appropriate US Embassy or US Consulate abroad.

For related information please see: American visa.

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20th May 2011

It recently came to the attention of this blogger that the United States Supreme Court may be hearing a case pertaining to issues surrounding the issuance of Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA). Such documents are generally issued by Consular Officers of the Department of State at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad.  To quote directly from a May 2nd posting by Lyle Denniston on ScotusBlog at scotusblog.com:

Stepping into a significant test of the President’s foreign policy powers, the Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide whether Congress had the authority to dictate how the Executive Branch makes out birth certificates for U.S. citizens born abroad — in this case, in Jerusalem, a city that the U.S. government does not recognize as an official part of Israel.  At issue is the validity of a nine-year-old law in which Congress aimed to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  That dispute came in one of two cases the Court agreed on Monday to hear, at its next Term.

The administration of this blog strongly encourages readers to click the hyperlinks above to read this posting on ScotusBlog in its entirety as it cogently provides information about what could prove to be a very pertinent issue in the days and weeks ahead.

Although the issuance of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad may seem innocuous, especially to American Citizens who do not have a great deal of international experience; but it should be noted that this document is very important as issuance of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad documents the fact that an American Citizen was born overseas. This document is thereby used to obtain a US passport as well as other documentation. To continue quoting from the aforementioned article:

After State Department officials refused to fill out a report on the foreign birth of a boy born in 2002 in a Jerusalem hospital to show that his birthplace was “Israel,” his parents sued, seeking to enforce the 2002 law that ordered the State Department to do just that, when asked to do so.   A federal judge and the D.C. Circuit Court refused to decide the case, saying the controversy was a “political question” that the courts had no authority to resolve.

The law noted above attempts to deal with a somewhat difficult issue as Jerusalem is not technically considered to be part of the Greater State of Israel. In order to provide more insight on this complex issue it may be best to quote directly from the preamble to the opposition’s brief in this case:

QUESTION PRESENTED

Whether the court of appeals erred in affirming the dismissal of petitioner’s suit seeking to compel the Secretary of State to record “Israel” as his place of birth in his United States passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad, instead of “Jerusalem,” when the panel unanimously agreed that the decision how to record the place of birth for a citizen born in Jerusalem in official United States government documents is committed exclusively to the Executive Branch by the Constitution.

The administration urges readers to click on the hyperlink noted above to read the opposition’s brief in detail.

It would appear to this blogger as though the issues in this case are likely to result in any finding having tremendous ramifications. This is due to the fact that there really are two important notions in competition. Namely, the right of the individual or family to choose the manner in which a report of birth abroad is promulgated and the right of the Executive Branch to conduct foreign policy.

It remains to be seen how the Court will rule on these issues, but one this is certain: cases involving a “political question” often make for the most interesting decisions.

For related information please see: Certificate of Citizenship or Legal.

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29th April 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the discretionary powers accorded to Consular Officers at United States Missions abroad with regard to visa issuance are to be expanded to provide further latitude to Consular Officers with regard to the revocation of US visas. To quote directly from Justia.com:

This rule changes Department regulations to broaden the authority of a consular officer to revoke a visa at any time subsequent to issuance of the visa, in his or her discretion. These changes to the Department’s revocation regulations expand consular officer visa revocation authority to the full extent allowed by statute. Additionally, this rule change allows consular officers and designated officials within the Department to revoke a visa provisionally while considering a final visa revocation.

Clearly, this rule would expand the authority currently granted to Consular Officers in adjudicating American visa matters. For those who are unfamiliar with this topic it should be noted that Consular Officers currently maintain virtually un-reviewable discretion in matters pertaining to US visa application adjudication. This discretion occurs pursuant to a doctrine referred to as Consular Non-Reviewability (or colloquially referred to as Consular Absolutism). Pursuant to the philosophy underlying this doctrine Courts in the United States are unlikely to review the decisions of a Consular Officer at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad unless the Consular Officer’s decision in the matter appears “facially illegitimate” to the Court of competent jurisdiction.

Bearing this in mind the announcement went on to point out the reasoning behind the recent decision to make this rule change:

On occasion, after a visa has been issued, the Department or a consular officer may determine that a visa should be revoked when information reveals that the applicant was originally or has since become ineligible or may be ineligible to possess a U.S. visa. Section 221(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1201(i)) (INA) authorizes the Secretary and consular officers to revoke a visa in their discretion. Current regulations limit the circumstances in which consular officers may revoke visas. In light of security concerns, this amendment grants additional authority to consular officers to revoke visas, consistent with the statutory provisions of the INA. Although this rule eliminates the provisions that permit reconsideration of a revocation, it also allows for the provisional revocation of a visa when there is a need for further consideration of information that might lead to a final revocation. In cases where the person subject to a provisional revocation is found to be eligible for the visa, the visa will be reinstated with no need for reapplication. However, with the exception of provisional revocations, an applicant whose visa has been revoked must apply for another visa, at which time his or her eligibility for the visa will be adjudicated.

In this blogger’s opinion, this rule change could have significant ramifications for prospective visa applicants. That stated, it remains to be seen what the practical implications of this rule change will be. The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click on the above hyperlinks to learn more about this topic on Justia.com.

It should be noted that within the text of this memo it was pointed out that this rule is being promulgated pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act. To quote one final time from the aforementioned document:

This regulation involves a foreign affairs function of the United States and, therefore, in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553 (a) (1), is not subject to the rule making procedures set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553.

Those who have read this blog in the past may recall that the United States Department of State maintains a mandate to conduct the foreign affairs of the United States and one of the duties that is entailed within this mandate is the duty to adjudicate applications for a US visa. This can include applications for visas such as the B-2 visa (for those wishing to engage in recreational travel in the United States), the K-1 visa (a US fiance visa for the foreign fiance of a US Citizen), the CR-1 visa or IR-1 visa (for the spouse of an American Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident), or, in increasingly rare instances, a K-3 visa (which is a non-immigrant spouse visa for the husband or wife of an American Citizen). It is even posited that this new discretion could have an effect upon adjudication of L-1 visa and EB-5 visa applications, as well as the possible aftermath thereof. In any case, increased Consular discretion is likely to have an impact upon visa applications across the categorical spectrum of American travel documents.

For related information please see: K-1 Visa Thailand or K-1 Visa Cambodia.

For information related to waivers of grounds of inadmissibility (ineligibility) please see: I-601 waiver or I-212 waiver.

more Comments: 04

28th April 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has issued a new memorandum regarding the revocation of United States Passports by the United States Department of State. In order to better shed light upon this issue it may be best to quote directly from the interim USCIS memorandum itself:

DOS has authority to issue and revoke passports. Specifically, 22 U.S. Code (U.S.C.) 211a authorizes the Secretary of State and his or her designee (the U.S. Passport Office of the Bureau of Consular Affairs) to grant, issue, and verify passports. Through Executive Order No. 11295, 31 Fed. Reg. 10603, the President designated and empowered the Secretary of State with the authority to designate and prescribe the rules governing the granting, issuing, and verifying of passports.
DOS revokes passports in accordance with Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) sections 51.60-62, and 51.65. There are also several statutes under which passports may be revoked and that are incorporated into DOS’s regulations, including: 8 U.S.C. 1504 (the passport was illegally, fraudulently or erroneously obtained); 42 U.S.C. 652(k) (for non-payment of child support); 22 U.S.C. 2714 (for certain drug traffickers); 22 U.S.C. 2671(d)(3) (non-repayment of repatriation loan); and 22 U.S.C. 212a (adds authority to revoke passports of persons convicted of sex tourism). The regulations also require DOS to send written notification of the revocation of a passport to the bearer. See 22 CFR 51.65(a).

Clearly, as can be ascertained from the above citation, the Department of State is authorized to issue and revoke United States Passports. This can be of acute concern to those abroad with an outstanding warrant in the United States as Department of State officials routinely rescind passports upon finding that an American Citizen has a pending criminal warrant, fugitive warrant, or even a warrant in connection to domestic matters such as failure to pay American child support. Once a passport is revoked, an American may be issued a travel letter for the specific purpose of returning to the United States of America. For those unfamiliar with so-called travel letters it may be best to quote directly from the Foreign Affairs Manual:

Posts should issue travel letters only in rare or unusual circumstances described in this Appendix, where it is impossible to issue a passport. These circumstances include: (1) Law enforcement related travel letters in situations other than extradition. Such travel letters must be expressly authorized by CA/PPT/L/LA, which works with the U.S. law enforcement authority on matters related to revocation of the passport of the subject of an outstanding federal warrant. (See 7 FAM 1380 Passport Denial, Revocation, Restriction, Limitation and Surrender.)

Clearly, the Department of State only issues travel letters under rare circumstances, but US Passport revocation and travel letter issuance can occur especially in the context of Federal warrants. That said, the authority reserved to the Department of State regarding passport issuance and revocation would appear not to extend to the Department of Homeland Security‘s USCIS. To quote further from the USCIS memo cited above:

USCIS lacks the authority to revoke or confiscate a U.S. Passport. If reasons to doubt the validity of a passport come to the attention of USCIS, USCIS will not seize the passport, instruct the bearer to return the passport to DOS, or otherwise notify the bearer that there may be issues with the passport…In recent months, USCIS employees have on occasion informed customers that their U.S. Passports were invalid and should be surrendered to DOS. Upon review of certain cases, DOS determined that the passports were, in fact, valid and recognized in accordance with DOS policies and statutes. DOS has requested that USCIS direct any concerns regarding the validity of passports to DOS and not to the bearer of the passport.

It would seem from the quotation above as though the Department of State is in the best position to make a decision regarding the validity of a US Passport as such matters are within that Department’s bailiwick. As noted in the the US visa process, some matters pertaining to travel and immigration are bifurcated between the USCIS and the Department of State. Based upon the above memorandum and the Foreign Affairs Manual it would appear that Passport issues remain almost entirely within the Department of State’s mandate.

For related information please see: Arrest Warrant or Federal Warrant.

more Comments: 04

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